Friday, August 24, 2018

Scattered Thoughts

The post-Fair recovery continues. In all honesty, it’s been a bit harder this year. By now I should be pretty much back to my version of normal. Instead, I’m still hanging out on my heating pad, scrambling pain signals to my brain with electrode patch thingys, and Netflixing. At least there’s popcorn (unbuttered and air-popped).

I’m also walking. Walking walking walking. One of the many great things about The Fair is that it gets me back into a daily routine of strolling several miles each day. Walking makes my back…and my head…happy. Walking is good.

I’ve been sort of nesting this past week, so I’m getting my steps in the rural hinterlands around Woodhaven. In addition to avoiding a car, this has also afforded me the chance to meet some new neighbors. This is awesome since we will all be retreating to our hibernacles soon.

Returning from today’s 2.7 mile jaunt, my fingers slightly purple from the fresh blackberry snacks along the way, I headed right to the couch. Partly because my back commanded as much, partly because urgent research was required.

It took about 10 minutes of Googling and carefully studying rather graphic images before it dawned on me that my life is so not San Francisco Suburbs anymore. Because I’m here to tell you, never in my life before Woodhaven did I ever study photos of animal poop…especially with such intensity and excitement.

I’m quite familiar with rabbit and deer droppings. They are scattered all around Woodhaven. And I know that coyote poop looks a lot like what might be provided by a dog. But my recent walks have been dotted with some new…curiosities.

Cougars (a mom and her cubs) have been reported in the area for the past several weeks. A neighbor posted a sign suggesting we play some tunes since “cougars are very sensitive to music…” Soooo extraordinarily tempted to play some “Pink Houses” and “Hurts So Good.”

It's honestly not clear to me if we're talking about mountain
lions or middle aged women trying to lure in young hunks

Just a few days ago, Rob and I had to brake on our way down the hill to let a bobcat bebop across the street. And bears are not unheard of in these parts, although I haven’t heard of any in the immediate area this year. So far.

My extensive (~20 minutes) research tonight on critter scat implored me to search for tell-tale signs including tubular ropes, blunt ends, and items that are segmented, and twisted. Poop adjectives, or bands from the ‘80s? Or both?

Either which way, my careful yet appropriately distant inspection suggests we’ve definitely been visited by coyotes. Maybe a cougar. Definitely not a bobcat. And maaaaybeee a Boo-Boo sized bear (the scat is a bit scant; we’ve got quality but not quantity to call it). All of which is rather compelling information.

However, perhaps the most fascinating and thought-provoking finding this evening is the revelation that for only $21.50 (plus tax and shipping and in stock now!), I can purchase my very own life-sized replica of "Adult Black Bear" poop. The gift giving ideas are piling up!!

If only Rob liked blackberries and raspberries. The “Grey Fox with Berries” sample is a bargain at just $11.50.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Giuseppe

Ok, so I talked a lot about The Creepy Monkey Show at the Fair this year.  That wasn't its billed name but, truly, there is no title more apt.  As you will see shortly.

Although I did my best to describe the full oookiness of Giuseppe's "interactions" with the audience...especially those of the female persuasion...there's really nothing like seeing it for yourself.

And so, my dear Fair Fans, I give you....

GIUSEPPE, THE CREEPY MONKEY!!

And keep in mind...this is a kid's show. 




Although the Fair for 2018 is over, the images of Giuseppe will be burned into your skull for eternity.  Tell me I'm wrong.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

After the Final Elephant Ear – 2018 Fair Recap

Has anyone else noticed how particularly strong gravity has been the past few days? I swear I was adhered to Earth more than usual yesterday.

Today is a little better. I got about 9 hours of sleep last night and have reintroduced my body to the wonders of fruit and probiotics. If I follow my typical post-Fair pattern, all systems will be back to normal by the end of the week.


It was a great year
Rob and I were on our Fairwell Ferris Wheel Ride when I thanked him for fairing so well with me this year. He kissed me and shared that it was a particularly good Fair year from his perspective.

He said he never felt rushed or that we were on a schedule. Instead, I seemed much happier just showing up and wandering around, letting inspiration guide us. I paid less attention to the daily FanFair schedule (mostly because I’ve lost faith in its accuracy) and didn’t really seem stuck on a plan.

Maybe that uncharacteristically spontaneous trip to Hawaii in May had a bigger impact than I thought? Can I really be on vacation without a plan??

And yes, we view the Fair as a ten day vacation.

I was about to delete this accidental selfie my camera took
on the Ferris Wheel when I realized it captured a very
candidly happy, relaxed Fairgoer.  Vacations are good.


Why I love it so
A friend asked what it is that I love so much about the Fair; why it has captured my heart so completely. Two other folks leaned in to hear my answer so it occurred to me perhaps it’s a curiosity worth sharing.

Essentially, it boils down to being on a vacation with friends. The Fair is a total escape from reality, where it’s normal to see clowns riding around on penny-farthings and cowboys strolling around on stilts and livestock crossing my path on the way to a show ring.

It’s ten days of life in which my biggest decisions are which normally off-limits treats I want to indulge in. It’s an existence in which I happily welcome lingering, spontaneous conversations when I bump into friends without being distracted by a list of errands I need to keep on schedule.

There is a wholesomeness, an innocence, a revisit to simpler times with the Fair. I love seeing a cross-section of people of varying demographics sharing an experience. I love seeing the universality of adolescence played out in the carnival and livestock barns and show rings. I love watching suburbanites marvel at animals I see in pastures around Woodhaven every day. I love seeing elderly couples sharing pieces of pie and holding hands while looking at quilts.

So much in our world today serves to convince us we live in troubled, complicated times. The peaceful simplicity is still there if you know where to look.


It's not like it snuck up on them
This year was the Fair’s 150th birthday. I expected a lot of celebration and hoopla. I had very high hopes for the Fair People in Charge to put on a big party. Certainly they would make a big deal out of this county fair that is two decades...TWO DECADES...older than the state in which it resides.

And in the perfectly descriptive words of a friend of a friend, it was an Epic Fail.

I spent nine days looking and I found very little evidence of this year being any different than last year. There were mentions of it being the 150th birthday during announcements before shows in the Grandstands, but otherwise, a whole lotta nothing.

Well, I take that back. The Fair Board, whose 23 members are required to attend the Fair everyday, wore specially embroidered shirts commemorating the anniversary. And all the vendors had entry passes marking the occasion. And Very Special People were bestowed commemorative pins (bless you again, Fair Office Lady).

My friend John gave this to me at the end of the last day.
One of the best gifts ever.  Thank you SO
very much, John.  I already treasure it.

But that’s it. The only Fair souvenir available to the public was the plastic cup provided with your milkshake by the Dairy Women. I know quite a few locals who collect those cups every year. In part because they are adorable, but also because it’s the only souvenir of the Fair you can get.

What the heck, Fair People in Charge?

It’s not like you didn’t have any warning that the Fair was having a big birthday this year. Unless you needed more than 149 years? And actually, you did seem to know since you made sure your inner circle got swag.

Have you forgotten whom your non-profit really serves (yes, our Fair is a non-profit organization)? The Fair isn’t just about the hay contract and the soft drink contract and the banners and signage contract. While the Fair can’t happen without that business side of things, it really feels like that’s where the focus has shifted the past few years.

There’s been a slow decline in the variety and quantity of entertainment offered. Food booths are slowly dropping away and not returning. There are fewer vendors selling their wares, leaving obvious empty spaces around the Fairgrounds and in the Big Air Conditioned Building. The past few years – this and last especially – have felt off. The energy has been muted. The vibe has been one of being on auto-pilot, with the experience for the Fairgoer being something of an afterthought.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on (I have a few guesses), but this year was a chance for you to get back on course, Fair People in Charge. This year was a built-in opportunity to make a big splash, bring out the decorations and new ideas, invite your customers to Summer’s Best Party and celebrate with them. And Fair People in Charge, you blew it.

I love this Fair. Please love it as much as I do, Fair People in Charge. Please don’t take it for granted and assume it doesn’t need your attention. Don’t assume it doesn’t need your time, don’t assume it can run on its own, don’t assume that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…because I fear some pieces are starting to get worn and might indeed break if you aren’t careful.

Rant...with love and passion...over.

This decoration was handmade by a beef mom
for the Beef Barn display using a hula hoop and
netting and pipe cleaners.  Beef Mom and daughter
were taking it to the Fair Office on the last day with
hopes that the office might like it.  We stopped them
to ask if we could get a picture with their awesome
decoration. Beef Mom was so touched someone
appreciated her enthusiasm and hard work. 
You rock, Beef Mom!
The Fair People in Charge should hire you.


Making peace with the icky reptiles
As noted on Day 2, I was not a fan of the Big Attraction Exhibit this year. Waaaay too many slithering things without feet. I like feet. Feet signal to others which direction you are heading. Feet are good.

However, we did realize there was one advantage to the World of Gross Reptiles (not exactly the name on the signage). There weren’t quite enough scaly, bumpy creatures to fill the exhibition barn so a corner of it had about six large tables and chairs set up. They were nicely positioned near a door as well as a really large fan. The breeze was quite nice.

The big advantage was that this area was in close proximity to the Food Court. The seating in the Food Court can get rather crowded and the air stifling on a hot day. It wasn’t long before we coined the term "Reptile Dining Room" and found ourselves slithering in there with our yakisoba noodles and mac n cheese.

The big disadvantage was this. As long as I kept my back to the screen all was good. I learned that the hard way on Day 3 when I noshed on street tacos while trying not to watch a pack of hyenas savagely devouring their kill.

La la la la la.  I don't see you, creepy iguana lizard
dragon thing.  If I don't see you, you aren't there.


Carnival Econ 101
Rob and I occasionally meander through the carnival area. It’s a good walk and always provides a revitalizing dose of adolescent energy.

I always enjoy seeing the prizes that come out of the carnival and parade around the Fairgrounds. This year there were LOTS of stuffed donuts being worn as hats. And quite a few stuffed llamas.

Stuffed LLAMAS?? Of course, I needed to check this out.

The Llama Game was a dart-and-balloon exercise. Throw darts of questionable sharpness at a board covered in balloons, pop 6 of them, win a prize.

We did the math. If we were expert dart throwers with perfect aim, a coveted llama would cost $15. Rob’s pretty good, but not that good. Especially with carnival darts.

In the waning hours of Day 3, Rob and I casually sidled up to the bored guy manning the balloon dart board.

“How much to just buy the llama?”

Without much hesitation, Bored Guy replied, “Twenty bucks.”

“Deal.”

We took the llama on tour through the Llama Greenway so he could have a Fair Experience before heading to Woodhaven. He’s currently hanging out with some other llama friends in our breakfast nook, because you know Woodhaven has a few llama friends scattered about.

I named him Giuseppe.

Too bad there weren't any judges to score him.  Giuseppe
did quite well on this obstacle.


Final Stats:

Average number of miles walked per Fair day: 3.6 miles per day. That's pretty awesome for a 50-year-old body with titanium and orthotics and hamstrings pretending to be ACLs. Go, body! And YAY pain meds!

Average time I went to bed after posting blogs: 2:32am with an upward trend over the nine Fairing days. I sure hope David from the Xfinity booth calls me as promised to reveal when Woodhaven might get more than 2.5Mbps of internet speed. The photo uploads are killers!

Favorite Smasher Combo: So hard to choose, but I think the winner is Strawberry Mango.

Best Food Discovery: Once we ditched the ice cream and got a fresh batch, the little donuts from the new donut truck were really good. So good, in fact, we opted to have them instead of an elephant ear as our Fairwell treat.

Biggest First World Problem: They moved our bench. Our Bench. The nice wooden bench in the Big Air Conditioned Building placed in front of the canning display, positioned with a perfect view of the entrance. We love to sit there to take a break in the cool air and watch for friends coming and going. It’s also a favorite spot for our friends, Dave and Linda, so often we either take shifts or all cozy up on the bench together.

Linda and I commiserated on Day 2 about the misplacement of Our Bench this year. Still positioned near the canning, it now had its back to the entrance. Instead of watching for friends, we got to stare at the same five quilts all Fair. Sigh.

It was in the wrong place but we were still grateful to use it.


Changes afoot
Word on the Midway is that changes are a comin’. Three key people in the Fair Office will be retiring very soon, not the least of which is the Fair President/CEO/Manager/ Head Fair Person in Charge. John is 75 years old. His Fair gig of 27 years was his second career. He claims he’s going to retire for good this time.

The person who has been hired to take John’s place is a 44-year-old with event and conference management experience. Mickey’s from Tennessee with a special heart for “…the outdoorsy, communal style of county fairs,” according to an interview in our local paper.

I already like him.

Rob and I have also been in discussions for a slightly different approach to Fairing, at least for next year. We still have some things to work out, so stay tuned. But rest assured, I WILL be Fairing my little clogged heart out again next year…and you are absolutely invited along for the ride.


Almost finished…
Once I reacquaint myself with an app, I will post one more short, Fair-related blog in the next couple of days. I will do my utmost to make it worth the wait.  Key word:  video.

Stay tuned!



Monday, August 13, 2018

2018 FAIR – Day 10

Wow, the last day of my beloved Fair. Already. And yet it also feels like two years ago that I wore jeans on Opening Day. Time absolutely flies when you are having a blast. And drags like a Shave Ice line on a 95 degree day when you are exhausted.

The last day of Fair is always the definition of bittersweet. On the one hand, I am desperately sad to have my escape from reality come to an end. On the other hand, my body is ready to return to a more civilized sleep schedule and wouldn’t mind some fiber and protein.

We didn’t have any plans for day other than staying until closing so I could pick up my canned entries and that white ribbon photograph. Most people will pick up their entries tomorrow, but it is far too heartbreaking for me to see my Fair being completely dismantled. Watching animals and magicians and vendors leave for good today was hard enough.

We saw Adam at PDX once and chatted with him.
We have felt like buds ever since.  He may not
remember our names but he always remembers
our faces.  Love that!



I can quit any time. Really.
In past years, I was all about the tryouts for the Equestrian Fair Court which are held on the last day of the Fair. It was always a long but terribly exciting day of stalking and evaluating and taking notes.

Last year a personal friend I have known for years was the Queen. It was the pinnacle of my Fair Court Stalking Experience since I got to actually peek a bit behind the purple curtain.

At the end of Queen Maddie’s reign last year, I realized that short of being on the Fair Court myself (my hair isn’t long enough and I don’t know how to ride a horse), there would be no better year of Fair Court stalking than my Year with Maddie. And so I retired my zoom lens and decided to let all future Courts fluff their hair in peace.

Nevertheless, today I thought it would be fun to watch the interviews and fashion show, which are typically held in the afternoon (old habits die hard). It took far too much work to find out that portion of the competition had been shifted earlier and we had missed it. Boo.

Although I was disappointed, I was more bewildered that the Fair Court competition is not advertised, is not listed on the daily FanFair schedule, and that even the women in the Information Booth belied their title and had in fact no information about it (“They don’t tell us about that. It’s a big secret for some reason.”)

Rob and I were finally directed to the main administration offices where we were given a copy of the 2019 Fair Court Tryouts program – a copy that had to be made while we waited since they didn’t have any prepared to hand out.

Oddly, the program included the words “Public Welcome” three times, yet the public had no way of knowing it was happening. It was open to the public but seemingly the public wasn’t actually invited.

I honestly just don’t get it. The Fair People In Charge are missing an enormous opportunity to engage their public -- their customers -- in the process that selects the three young women who are charged with representing our beloved Fair throughout the year. The Court is always out and about, making appearances, being in parades. Why keep them at such a distance? Why not let their public get to know them and get invested in them? Why not actually invite us to their party?

Unless the Fair People In Charge are fearful that if the public gets too involved, the Fair Court might end up with some stalkers, benevolent though they may be.

Ooops.



No birds were handled or harmed in the competition
Another thing that could have been much better advertised is a competition called Round Robin. It is held for Large Animals and Small Animals. Today was the Large Animal competition.

To participate in Round Robin, a 4-H kid has to have won either first or second place for showing their animal. For Large Animals, that means llamas, goats, sheep, pigs, dairy cows, and beef cows.

All the top winning kids have just a couple of days to learn from each other how to show all the other animals. Then today, they travel around the fairgrounds to the various animal show rings and compete against each other in showing each animal other than the species they are expert in.

Basically, the idea is if you are a good showman, you can show any animal. The Round Robin’s aim is to ferret out who the absolute best showmen are, period. Sadly, ferrets are not among the animals that are shown at our Fair. Dang it.

Rob and I have often been interested in watching this competition, but it was always a bit chaotic with small groups of kids simultaneously running around from show ring to show ring on a schedule that was anyone’s guess. This year they changed the format and made Round Robin MUCH more user-friendly for spectators.  THANK YOU, Fair People in Charge!!

Since Rob and I knew one of the top scoring showmen for llamas, we were excited to get to the Fairgrounds in time this morning to watch Allara try her hand at showing a pig, a goat, and a lamb (we sadly missed the cow rounds). And yes, I know Allara is technically a show-woman, but I have never heard the term used in 4-H circles so I’m just using their lingo, antiquated though it may be.

The pig competition was hysterical. Pigs are huge and strong and stubborn. They pretty much go wherever they want. They also occasionally get ornery with other pigs in the ring, leading to pig fights. Adults with thick plastic panels (called Pig Boards) stand at the ready in the show ring to separate pigs who start trying to rumble.

Meanwhile, the 4-H kids are handed a long, flimsy stick that looks like an antenna. They are instructed to use it to control the obstinate swine. Someone told them they can do that by tapping the sides of the pig repeatedly. I remain unconvinced.

So imagine a bunch of 4-H kids with long sticks, tromping around the show ring chasing wayward swine, tapping the pigs with antennas with the illusion that somehow the magical sticks will control the 300lb ham-toddler.

We couldn’t really tell how well Allara did, other than she smiled and tapped very well. Her pig also didn’t try to kill anything, so we assume she won that round.

Tap tap tappity tap tap


The goat showmanship competition was much more precise. The 4-Hers had to set their animal’s feet just so and they had to make sure their goat was always between them and the judge. They lead the goats around the ring while the judge gave them instructions to see how well these kids who knew nothing about goats could present them to the judge.

Allara had an adorable pygmy goat who was soooooo tired. The little guy could barely keep his eyes open (totally my spirit animal for the day). Allara kept petting his head to keep him awake, and made sure the lead chain was taught to keep the goat’s head up. In a twisted way, because I am punchy with exhaustion, the entire situation sort of reminded me of the movie “Weekend At Bernie’s.”


Poor little guy is all Faired out

The sheep judge was intense. He purposely gave very complicated instructions to see how well the kids could follow along. Once the 4-Hers had their sheep all lined up, the judge went down the line and purposely irritated each lamb with a slight squeeze on the rump. He watched closely to see how well each kid handled an annoyed animal. An animal they knew nothing about mere days before.

At one point, a lamb that was not in the competition got loose and ran around the show ring, firing up all the showsheep into a frenzy. The kids had to try to keep control of their lambs while the rogue one was being wrangled. The sheep judge was just sneaky enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if that loose lamb was entirely on purpose.

Notice the open mouths on the sheep.
They had a lot to say about being
handled by kids who don't usually
handle sheep.


Finally, all the competitions were over. All six animals, both for older kids (Seniors; ages 14-19) and younger kids (Intermediate; ages 11-13). A total of 25 4-Hers had competed. Four winners were announced – first and second place for both the Seniors and the Intermediates.

And then this happened.

One of those glorious photography moments
of hitting the button at just the right time.
A shoe in for a White Ribbon next year!


After only three years in 4-H, and with no experience in those three years with large animals other than llamas and alpacas, the Amazing Allara won Grand Champion Showman for the Intermediates!!

Her mom cried, her dad beamed, her younger brother was a great sport, all my llama friends cheered…and Allara had the biggest smile on her face the rest of the day. Well-earned and totally deserved.  CONGRATULATIONS, ALLARA!!!

SO DANG HAPPY!
Allara is, too.




There’s no crying in the Llama Greenway…unless it’s the last day of Fair.
Rob and I were on our evening rounds, wandering around the Fairgrounds, watching the Fair slowly come to a close. The first tear fell around 7:00 this evening.

We walked into the Llama Greenway to find it almost completely dismantled. There were only three penned animals left; everybody else was gone. I stood there looking at the brown emptiness and tried to hear the llama hums and kid laughter and loudspeaker announcements and competition cheering that had filled the area for ten glorious days.

And then I spotted Allara and her mom. They had a garment bag for Allara’s show ring uniform and a tote bag now toting a large Grand Champion Round Robin trophy and a whole bunch of ribbons.

Rob and I congratulated Allara. We told her how impressed we were by all her hard work and long hours. We commended her for all the sacrifices she had made to accomplish her goals. I thanked her for being such a spectacular part of my Fair, for doing things I wish I had thought to do when I was a kid. Through her, I get to experience a little bit of 4-H life. I told her that even though I couldn’t claim her as my kid, I was so extraordinarily proud of her.

And then Allara got to watch two grown women cry with shared pride and gratitude in the Llama Greenway.

I sort of hope she slept with the trophy tonight.
Or at least the ribbon.  It looks less pokey.



Like I needed another reason to be sentimental
With a sudden inspiration (is there any other kind?), I decided I wanted an onion bloom as a snack (see Fair Food Feast Parade). There’s really only one booth to get them so we bellied up to the DeMolay counter for the first time all Fair.

And I was surprised and so very happy to see my friend Rick and his son working the booth.

Apparently, Rick had been working throughout the Fair but we clearly had never seen him. During a lull, he took a break and sat with Rob and me as we munched on the Fair treat Rick likely never needs to see one of again in his life.

We caught up on lives, chatting about work and vacations and what it’s like to work in a food booth at the Fair (long hours, chaotic, exhausting, but also a great way to bond with a young teen son).

After we said good-bye, I realized Rick is my longest friendship. We met as 8-year-olds as third graders in a suburb of San Francisco. We rode bikes together, played in the street together, learned how to play card games together. We went to high school together but had different circles of friends. Nevertheless, we signed each other’s Senior Year yearbooks.

We reconnected later as adults, me struggling not to call him Ricky anymore. He and his wife moved to my county several years ago in search of a new career and a new environment in which to raise their son.

Tonight, it was such a gift of life and intersecting circumstances to sit in the Food Court of my beloved Fair and catch up with a friend of over 40 years.

I really need to remember to pack along Kleenexes on Day 10.

Despite the heat and exhaustion, I suspect working
the DeMolay booth together at the Fair will be a favorite
memory for both of them in the years to come.



DAILY STATS:

Number of miles walked: 4.1 miles, which included walking around Walmart on our way home to pick up provisions…like bananas and naproxen, both of which will be eagerly consumed tomorrow.

Re-entry hand stamp: The adorable dancing pig again, just like on Day 1. But this time, unlike the Giraffe Horse, the repeat is absolutely perfect.

Earrings: Green breath mints! After nine days of eating my way through the Fair, these seemed the obvious choice.



Random freebie: Four packets of yeast! Rob scored these in the Canning Department while I was over in the Photography Department retrieving my award-winning photo (hey, last place is still an award, right?). I’m assuming I’m supposed to make bread or something with them. I’m hoping for homemade beer instead.



Number of friends we said hi to: A 2018 Fair high of a whopping 35! I am surrounded by people in my life who also find joy in Fairing. So grateful. And so sappy!

Time crawled into bed: 3:41am.  The latest bed time of the Fair. Sometimes it's hard to write through tears.


FAIR FOOD FEAST PARADE:

The Final Parade of 2018. Traditionally, my stomach and appetite seem to know the party is ending and start checking out on the Fair Food thing on the last day. Not this year! For whatever reason, my stomach was all in all day to the very end. YAY!

Finishing up my Tangerine La Croix in the Fairgrounds
parking pasture.

Corn dog from Hog Daddy's.  That batter
sure is good.

My final Smasher.  This was the Strawberry Peach Pear
blend.  A great way to say Fairwell to Stan.  And thanks for
all the refills, Eric and Dakota!

Finally got yesterday's mac n cheese with bacon
from Big E's BBQ.  It was exactly what I wanted.
Mmmmm.

Yesterday I said I would be sharing my caramel corn with
friends.  Here I am, sharing it with Holly.

Rojo wanted to get in on the caramel corn action, too.
He sincerely liked the stuff more than I did so I left
the bag for him to share with his buddies. Or devour
all on his own, either way.

Chocolate vanilla swirl soft serve ice cream from the
Dairy Women's Barn.  In real life, I never have that
much ice cream as a serving.

Rob and I shared this onion bloom from the DeMolay booth.
It's a Walla Walla onion that is sliced into little pieces and
then fried with tempura batter.  It was very good and we
managed to finish the whole thing.

But about 15 minutes later, I needed some
fresh air and two Tums.  And the look on
my face is more exhaustion than nausea,
which fortunately passed.  The nausea I mean.
The exhaustion, well... I'm pretty much
a pygmy goat at the moment.

Final Fair Food Feast Parade Treat of 2018
Rob and I shared a bag of a dozen donuts from the
new donut truck.  They were one of my favorite finds
of the year, best enjoyed at night when the air cools down.
I happily came home tonight sprinkled in powdered sugar.
I LOVE THE FAIR!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

2018 FAIR – Day 9

Super fun Fair Day! And wow, was it crowded! There were more people at the Fair today than we have seen any of the past nine days. We parked waaay out in the pasture, and I actually started making feasting selections based on line lengths. I rarely pass up a Fair Food Treat because the lines are too long.

Although all the extra people made it more challenging to get around the Fairgrounds and see and do everything we wanted, it warmed my heart to see so many people enjoying our Fair.   Funny how the forecast of rain in August makes Washingtonians flock outside to gratefully rehydrate.


Somebody else had to get 11th place this year
Today has traditionally been Llama Day for me at the Fair.  In many of the prior years, I…and sometimes Rob…have participated in Open Class llama (and alpaca) competitions. I’ve lead camelids around obstacle courses, I’ve tried to be something of a Showman, and I’ve learned that a halter is not just a groovy triangular blouse from the ‘70s. I’ve won a variety of ribbons, a few even in single-digit places.

This year, though, Rob and I decided it was wisest to just be spectators. He and I are both trying to heal achy body parts (“Pruner’s Elbow” for Rob – or “Tennis Elbow” for those without blackberry bushes trying to conquer their backyard; and a pulled quad muscle for me as I learn why so few people 50 and older sit on the floor cross-legged). There’s quite a bit of pulling and tugging and bending and squatting in Open Class Llama Obstacles; for the humans, too.


                                        Bending                      Pulling                     Squatting


So we spent a fair amount of time today sitting in the bleachers in the shade, sipping beverages, and listening to two dear friends try really hard to be supportive and not cheer (too loudly) when things went a bit awry for their competition in the Show Ring. Truth be told, it was a bit of a relief today not having to deal with nerves and jitters of trying to figure out how close to last place I would likely land.

I'm sure there was absolutely nothing happening in the
Show Ring with a competitor when I snapped this photo.
They're just having a super fabulous time in the Llama Greenway.
I'm sure of it. 



Speaking of last place
In addition to two canned jars of garden goodies, I also entered one photo in the Fair this year. As I rack up last (third) place ribbons year after year, I repeatedly threaten to never enter a photo in the Fair again. And almost every year I cave at the last minute and join the fray, thinking maybe somehow I will break the code of what the heck the Photography Judges use as judging criteria.

This year, wanting to at least share a cool pic with the Fairing population, I entered a photo from our May trip to see the volcanic eruption in Hawaii (see May 22 blog). I used the ledge of a restaurant’s porch as a tripod while we had dinner in the town of Pahoa by the eerie glow of the lava nearby.

As you will see, once again, my photo was awarded the lowly white ribbon (all photos get a ribbon – a blue (“YAY!”), red (“I’ll try harder!”), or white (sigh).

Those white splotches are not UFOs or Vog Blobs.
They are reflections of lights in the Big Air
Conditioned Building.  Hmmm....maybe that's why
my photo got such low scores?

I really thought I had a chance this year of at least getting a red. And the more I perused the rest of the entries and their associated ribbons, the more mystified I got as to why mine received such low marks.

Thinking like a red ribbon winner, I approached a guy behind a counter in the Photography Department and asked if he could explain to me how photos are judged so I can do better next time.

Although he wasn’t a judge or the recommended Photography Superintendent, the Nice Photo Guy explained the importance of not cropping off people’s heads and not having a border around your photo and making sure the photo is in focus.

Apparently I looked confused, as I thought my entry did not violate any of these mind-blowing rules. So the Nice Photo Guy offered to take a look at my entry to see if he could give me some tips.

It honestly made me feel a little better that he didn’t immediately understand my ribbon placement. Finally, he decided the issue was that the gas station on the right side of the photo was not in focus and I should have used a tripod.

Okey dokey then.

Altogether now:  "I am never entering a photo in the Fair again."



Cheryl and Susan are devastated they missed it
Because we are more rednecky than many people realize, Rob and I excitedly returned to the Grandstands this evening to watch the fourth and final Tuff Trucks show. Yes, the event is so dang popular amongst the locals, the Fair expanded it to two nights a few years ago. Gives all them eager country boys in these parts lots of chances to bust up their rigs.

Much to our delight, the dirt track had been changed a bit from yesterday. The dirt mounds were higher to make things a lot more bouncy. The table top had been modified to encourage more air. And some mounds were placed further apart to allow for more rollovers and headstands. In other words, the track was a ton more fun for both the drivers and the audience.

Despite arriving 40 minutes early, we ended up having to sit at the very top of the Grandstands in order to have seats with back rests. It’s been years since we’ve had to sit up there. I tell you, our county LUVS them some Tuff Trucks!

It was a great show; much better than the one yesterday. It still lasted about 90 minutes but it was full of much faster runs and a lot more action. Lots of trucks caught air, a couple flipped, a number popped tires along the way, one lost a camper shell, and one guy busted his transmission such that he could only go backwards. So, naturally, he donutted around, revved up, and did the final jump going backwards. He then exited the arena and drove to his spot in the parking lot all in reverse. It was one of the more impressive maneuvers I’ve seen in Tuff Trucks. Ah, to be a 17-year-old redneck…

Classic Tuff Truck moment.  Which we saw
absolutely zero of yesterday.  Note to self:
skip the first day of Tuff Trucks and grab
our seats an hour early for the final show.



He finished his spin and then backed out of the 
arena to the right.




DAILY STATS:

Number of miles walked: 3.5 miles again!  I thought it might be a bit more since we parked so far away, but then again, we weren't able to walk as much due to the crowds.

Re-entry hand stamp: A stately rooster on the top of the right hand. See, they had other stamps! Still confounded why they repeated Giraffey Horse day.

Earrings: Rojo the Llama’s silhouette in wood! So very Portland. I wore my matching t-shirt, too. I llove Llama Day!



Random freebie: I spun the wheel at the Portland Spirit booth (a local touristy excursion boat that sails up and down the Willamette River) and won the highly practical Small Flag. I’m currently trying to figure out how the Purple Octopus headband might hold it in one of its tentacles.



Number of friends we said hi to: 20, including our neighbors Kyle and Tanya and their daughters Laney and Lindsay….whom I might add I am starting not to recognize cuz they are looking all tall and teenagery. Still beautiful, though; that part hasn’t changed. Kyle and Tanya blew me away when they told me they have been reading my blog every day. Oh my gosh, thank you again, friends!! I have no idea who all is reading my ramblings, but I can’t tell you how encouraging it is at 2:20am to know there are folks out there taking the time to read along on my Great Fair Adventure. Albeit it a much more civilized hour.  THANK YOU!

I recently mentioned in a Small Dreams blog (July 19) that years
ago some young girls made me a cat out of a toilet paper roll,
construction paper, and pipe cleaners when we had to put
our cat down.  These are those girls, not so young anymore.
But I still have that cat sitting in a place of honor on a
shelf in our office.  =^..^=


Time crawled into bed:  2:29am.  So very tired...



FAIR FOOD FEAST PARADE:

Despite a couple redirects, I had a very good eatin’ day. I also mused for a bit on how in real life I try not to eat after about 8:30pm. However, during Fair, it strikes me as entirely reasonable to have an ear of corn at 9:30pm and chase it with a milkshake at 10:00pm. It’s probably a really good thing there is only one day left of this diet.


Polar Orange Vanilla sparkling water.  Yes, I am stocked
with quite a variety.  This one tastes like an Orange
Creamsicle if you have an imagination.

My Daily Smasher -- Rob's favorite...the Peach Pear.
Yummm!

Lunch!  The Chicago Dog from Dogville.
It was very good and only required a fork
at the end.  One complaint:  the promised
sport peppers were actually chopped
pepperoncinis.  Now, I love me some
pepperoncinis but they are not sport
peppers. A Chicagoan would have rightly
complained to the booth manager.  I'm a
Washingtonian with a blog so I'll complain here instead.

Sneaking some (a third??) of Rob's tasty crispy
fries from the Lion's booth.  I'm going to miss these.

Sliced caramel apple.  Oh my goodness, I wish I had
known about the slice thing years ago.

Quite enjoying some homemade blackberry jelly made by
my friend Terrie.  She made it at the Fair as a demonstration
and texted me when it was ready for sampling.  Have I mentioned
I have the best friends?!?  And yummm on the jelly!  It was
quite nice not to have any seeds in there.  I might have to
learn how to use a food mill.
The owner of the Hawaiian Shave Ice booth
told me this Mexican seasoning he quietly
offers on the counter is really good on the
watermelon shave ice.  The seasoning's
ingredients are chili peppers, lime, salt...
right up my alley.  So of course I tried it.

I LOVED IT!  It was a totally different
experience than just shave ice.  It was
kicky and crunchy and delicious.  It
reminded me of being told years ago
that red pepper flakes are good on fresh
pineapple slices.  In any case, I will have to
ask the owner what other flavors are good
with the seasoning.  The green flavor there
is Green Apple.  It was fine but I was totally
distracted by the idea of putting condiments
on shave ice.  YUM1

Dinner -- the kid's plate from Patrick's
Hawaiian Cafe.  The tender teriyaki chicken
and yummy yakisoba noodles.  Wow, that's a lot
of y's and k's and i's to keep track of at
2:00 in the morning.  In any case, I was
quite pleased with this even though my
original plan was to have some Smoked
Mac n Cheese and Fried Zucchini.  But
Big E's was out of the mac and cheese
and I didn't get the zucchini out of
protest for them not putting a note on their
menu so I could have avoided the line.

I decided to try this Lilikoi Passion Fruit juice
from Patrick's.  It was ok but was honestly really
bland compared to the Smashers.  

Snacking on my favorite Nerd Rope candy from the Candy Hut
(not its real name) near the coffee kiosk.  I only get to eat
Nerd Rope at the Fair.  It was gone before the National
Anthem started.

I decided to try the caramel corn from the booth
that I got the delicious white cheddar popcorn
from.  Verdict: for caramel corn, I suspect it
is very good. However, it turns out I am not a
big fan of caramel corn.  I will be sharing this
with friends tomorrow.

If it's 9:30pm, it must be time for roasted corn.  I was realllly
hoping Big E's had a shaker of parmesan cheese to make this
ear even more Fair worthy.  Instead I just added salt.
I wonder if I could bring my own baggie of cheese tomorrow? 

Capping off the day with a bedtime Marionberry milkshake.
They don't often have the marionberries so this was a huge
treat.  Marionberries are sort of a cross between blackberries
and raspberries -- not as tart as a raspberry and not as sweet
as a blackberry.  They are a Pacific Northwest thing and this
shake made me very happy...despite the current thoughts
of popping a wee hours Tums.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

2018 FAIR – Day 8

Yikes! It’s already past midnight and I’m just starting to write. Let’s jump right in.

I’m really not an air head
Even though I am quite a disaster in the kitchen…especially with baking…I have somehow managed to learn how to can stuff. The Death Peaches of 2004 notwithstanding.

Rob is kind enough to grow all sorts of veggies for me so I can make salsa, pickles, and marinated jalapenos. I also try to keep my father-in-law stocked up with blackberry jam from all the berried weeds on our property.

I’ve entered some of my canned creations in past Fairs and have astoundingly earned blue ribbons. It helps that the judges don’t actually taste anything. Instead, it’s purely a beauty contest based on attractiveness, proper measurements, and how well things are packed. The jars I mean.

This year I decided to enter some Tomatillo Salsa I made last fall and some Dill Pickles I made last month. Knowing how critical head space is, I selected the jars I thought nailed the required one-half inch gap between the lid and my canned garden bounty.

I was a little concerned when I dropped off my entries pre-Fair. The woman manning the canning had never heard of tomatillos or Salsa Verde. I feared the judges might not know how to judge something they had never heard of. Then I remembered some of the “wines” I have judged for the Fair (peach bell pepper wine, anyone?) and figured I might still have a chance of adding some more blue ribbons to my canning closet (yes, I have one…in the garage).

So color me disappointed when I discovered that both of my jars got red ribbons. Both had judge’s notes telling me to watch my head space. Problem was, I thought I had.

Today, doing my best not to sound whiny and sincerely seeking to understand and learn so I can do better next time, I asked a nice canning lady to explain what I had done wrong.

Wouldn’t ya know, my head space was indeed off. I thought I had to fill the jars to the bottom of a thick lip etched in the glass. Turns out real canners know to fill above the lip. Sigh. Apparently in this beauty contest, it’s all about the lips.

Although it wasn't noted by the judge, the canner lady also
suggested that my piece of garlic in the pickles might have
caused a deduction since the spear standing on it was
pushed out of the brine.  So much to learn.



Not as smart as a llama
For the past few days, my friend Shannon has been sharing a daily Fair Treat with her llama llove, Rojo. The not-terribly-discerning camelid has enthusiastically enjoyed an elephant ear and an ice cream cone so far.

Today, Shannon was craving blue cotton candy so I decided join in the fun. Because, wow, I can’t even remember the last time I had pure sugar spun into clouds.

I really didn’t eat enough of the Blue Raspberry Cotton Candy to justify including it in the Fair Food Feast Parade. In fact, I only ate about three pinches of the stuff. Nevertheless, that was a sufficient amount to produce this:

Upon showing my tongue to a teenage friend, I was
immediately asked where I got the cotton candy.  Only
the cool kids have blue tongues.  Sorry, Rojo,
I’m relieved to report that with several minutes of swishing with water, most of the stain dissolved from my teeth. However, my tongue still has a blue tinge more than 8 hours and 5 treats later. Fantastic!

As for Rojo, despite several attempts, the llama that will eat a Voodoo donut with passion literally turned his snout up at the blue sugar. Shannon could not convince him to even take a little nibble. Which is a shame since it would have been quite amusing to see a brown llama sporting two very blue teeth.



Special Guests!
Today we were joined by Cheryl and Susan, two friends who travelled quite a distance to come check out the Fair I can’t stop talking about.

Cheryl has been a friend for decades. She lives near St. Louis, Missouri. Susan is Cheryl’s friend who used to live in Missouri but now lives just north of Woodhaven by a few hours. Cheryl decided it was time to visit Susan and check out this Pacific Northwest thing. She timed her trip so she could also attend My Fair for a day. Awwwwww!!!

Susan and Cheryl enjoyed the breeze Dock Dog
seating with us.  Sooo refreshing to not be sweltering!


I was super excited when we concluded they would join us today, it being Tuff Truck Day. I was certain watching local adolescent boys race their jacked up rigs around a dirt obstacle course would give the ladies the perfect feel for what my Fair is all about.

Oh, how right I was.

Cheryl and Susan arrived in the Grandstands this afternoon after having spent the past week together perusing the iconic Powell’s Bookstore for hours, attending a Renaissance Fair while trying hard not to be distracted by the copious historical inaccuracies, and enjoying the serene natural beauty of nearby beaches and national parks.

Not surprisingly, “the truck thing”…as it was quickly named…was a bit of a shock to their sensibilities. It was just a touch louder than their prior activities (my throat was a little sore from trying to talk over the loudspeaker…and from cheering when that one quad did a somersault, busted a few parts, and then kept racing. Ooooh, man, that was awesome!).  And it was perhaps a bit more rednecky than their daily fare. And admittedly a bit pointless. And absolutely a shining example of all things ‘Murica.

I figured attending the 7:00pm show was a no-go when I noticed Susan checking on her Words With Friends game. But she and Cheryl were wonderfully good sports to endure and do their best to enjoy what was undeniably a looong event filled with newbie drivers still trying to figure out how to race over dirt mounds without getting high-centered. We’ve been here at Woodhaven long enough, I sometimes forget how rogue Rob and I have gone from our past life in suburban San Francisco.

Aside from the truck thing, the four of us spent some time in the Big Air Conditioned Building learning about how to make lace. We wandered through some animal barns and ooohed and aaaahed over the baby piglets and brand new calf born last night. We watched Dock Dogs. We met Rojo. We were treated to a lively performance at the hypnotist’s show by a young teen who was convinced she was Taylor Swift.

Proof they were at a Fair!


And we ate. Boy did we eat! I wasn’t sure how feasty Cheryl and Susan would be but wow, they are great eatin’ buddies! Cheryl was all in and ready to nosh. Potatoes, bricks of fries, funnel cake, elephant ear, milkshake. She wisely reminded me that a diet simply describes whatever it is that you eat. Therefore, I can legitimately say…even and especially while Fairing…that I am on a diet. Cheryl, why don’t we hang out more?!? Oh, right. St. Louis.

So, when are you moving to Washington, Cheryl? Would it help if I promise to never subject you to a truck thing again?

Fairing extremely well.



DAILY STATS:

Number of miles walked: 3.5 miles

Re-entry hand stamp: An adorable “baby sheep” (my people call it “lamb”) on the inside of the left wrist. It was very cute, very fluffy, and very inky. I have two of its friends on the top of my left thigh.

Earrings: Tillamook Baby Loaf Van! Ok, so it’s not food but it IS food related. Tillamook Cheese is one of my favorites. Plus I love buying local when I can. The fun orange VW Van is a brilliant marketing vehicle to get the word out about the small loaves of cheddar cheese. And so naturally, I have earrings. I figured they went with my Fair Food Stain t-shirt choice today.



Random freebie: Today’s sponsor was Coca-Cola. So of course I was expecting to score a free bottle of the caffeinated, bubbly beverage. Or at least a small cup’s worth. And of course, I instead ended up with a half-dozen pencils. Because pencils are a super exciting way to get people jazzed about your beverage.  Especially when you are a small company and probably don't have much of an advertising or promotions budget.



Number of friends we said hi to: 14. Same number as yesterday…but not the same people.  Mostly.

Time crawled into bed:  2:48am.  2.6 Mbps for photo uploads is going to be the death of me.



FAIR FOOD FEAST PARADE:

As we were trying to coordinate meeting up with Cheryl and Susan, I briefly panicked that I wasn’t going to get enough eating in for the day. Oh, silly silly Toni. Thanks for being on a diet with me, ladies! You rock!

A Raspberry Lime Spindrift sparkling water.  It is super
duper tart.  Which I like.  But I suspect I'm special that way.

Corn dog from the Hog Daddy's booth next to the giant
snow cone.  This had been recommended by several friends.
Verdict:  the corn part was fantastic.  It was a pancake-like
batter so it had a delicious thickness and sweetness.  However,
the hot dog was sort of wimpy.  Fine but small.  The
Ultimate Corn Dog would be Hog Daddy's corn batter
and Chuck Wagon's dog.

I desperately wanted a Shave Ice yesterday but the lines were
ridiculously long.  Finally got a favorite combo -
lime and cherry.  Mmmmm.

My daily Smasher:  NW Berries and Mango.  So refreshing.
And Stan, your cups this year are quite the eye-catcher.
At least a half-dozen people every day ask me what my
drink is and where to get it.

Mmmm, chocolate lipstick.  This chocolate dipped
frozen banana from the booth next to the Grandstands
entrance hit the spot.  Especially since I have been
missing my normal-life daily smoothies with bananas.

Ok, so I wasn't going to include it but the photo makes me
happy.  So very blue!

Baked potato with The Works:  butter, salt, pepper, sour cream,
bacon, sausage, chives.  Always a favorite, although the sausage
tasted different this year.  Normally it's a little fennel-y, which
I like.  This year, it's more spicy.  I like spicy, but I prefer
sausage with fennel over sausage with spice.  Hopefully
I will remember next time to ask them to hold the sausage.

Brick of fries from the Roadhouse booth
outside the food court.  It was delightfully
greasy.  Last year we had it with nacho
cheese sauce.  I think I like the cheesy
version best.  Oh, and this was shared -- I only
ate about a quarter brick.

Deep Fried Heaven in the form of a Reeses Peanut
Butter Cup.